NEWS

Reshuffle and Ankara will have to wait

A Cabinet reshuffle and an historic visit to Turkey will not take place this year, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Saturday, in an attempt to end recent speculation about both political tasks facing him. Karamanlis was in the middle of his three-day official visit to Japan when he was asked about reports that he would soon be reshuffling his ministers, but the prime minister appeared adamant that he did not have any plans to change his Cabinet. «This is wrong. There no such issue. Anyway, I believe that the frequent changing of ministers is counterproductive,» Karamanlis replied. Speculation has recently suggested that the prime minister would seek to introduce some new blood into his Cabinet as quickly as possible. The rumors flourished as party bosses feared that a string of allegations about New Democracy politicians were giving the impression of a government mired in problems. Despite pressure from some elements within his party, the premier does not appear willing to be rushed into any decisions. Sources, however, indicate that a reshuffle is likely to take place next year, perhaps to coincide with the unveiling of a new wave of reforms, which could give the ruling conservatives enough momentum to carry them into the next general elections, due by 2008. Sources also suggest that Karamanlis may initially tinker with the government’s set-up by introducing someone to work as a dedicated media-friendly spokesperson and go-between for the press. This would take the pressure off government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, who also doubles up as minister of state. The reforming of the coordinating council which was used during the Athens Olympics also looks likely to happen. This would allow all the ministers and ministries to work together and air their views, thereby avoiding any internal bickering or dissent, the prime minister says. Speaking to Greek journalists later on Saturday, Karamanlis admitted that his much-heralded trip to Ankara was not likely to take place this year. Over the last few weeks, the trip had looked increasingly unlikely as differences between Greece and Turkey resurfaced. Both Athens and Ankara, however, had been insisting publicly that they were looking to find suitable dates for the first official visit to Turkey by a Greek prime minister in over 40 years. «I cannot see a visit taking place by the end of the year. We are looking for a date early in 2006,» Karamanlis told reporters. The prime minister also said that he had seen some positive signs suggesting that a deal over EU funding under the Fourth Community Support Framework could be agreed among the 25 members by the end of the year.